Rhiannon steps back in time...

By Jake Chown  
Thursday 11th November 2021 5:00 pm

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A LLANVETHERINE-based, author has explored how the pandemic forced her to ’go on location’ and travel through time.

Rhiannon Lewis is the first UK winner of the William Faulkner Literary Competition’s short story category since its inception but the 2020 Covid restrictions forced her to abandon plans attend the awards ceremony in Mississippi.But now, Victorina Press is publishing her new anthology, I Am the Mask Maker and other stories which includes the Faulkner contest winning story, Piano Solo. Rhiannon’s debut novel, My Beautiful Imperial, published by Victorina Press, was placed on the Walter Scott Prize Academy recommended list of historical novels in 2018. Rhiannon is no stranger to competitions, many of the stories in the new anthology have either been shortlisted or won competitions, including The Significance of Swans shortlisted for the Bristol Prize in 2019 and The Jugs Stay with the Dresser which won Frome Festival’s short story competition in 2017. She admits to a love-hate relationship with competitions. ’When you are a writer published by a small, independent press, getting mentioned in competitions is often the only comfortable way for you to draw attention to your work, particularly if you feel embarrassed blowing your own trumpet on social media.’Rhiannon goes on to explain that after another of her stories was shortlisted for the HG Wells competition last year, she set to work on the theme proposed for this year: Mask. ’Given our recent experiences, the challenge was to write something that wouldn’t be too depressing. I decided to ’go on location’ and travel through time. I went back to Renaissance Italy and wrote about a place which was as far away from Pandemic Britain as I could imagine - beautiful, watery Venice.’Even though the final story ended up being nearly twice as long as the maximum word count allowed for the competition, which meant I couldn’t submit it, it did produce one of my most uplifting stories. It also gave me the title for my book. Competitions are useful, not always in the way they’re intended.’However, whenever a story fails to make it on to a shortlist, I console myself that writing is not a sport. Jan Morris was wise, as always, when she said, "There are no rules to art, though, nobody is offside, and to my mind nobody should be judged a winner. Not even me."’I Am the Mask Maker and other stories will be released on October 30, but can be pre-ordered now directly from the publisher www.victorinapress.com or from all good bookshops.

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